Māori welcome - the pōwhiri

Māori culture has a dynamic nature that is inherent in a lot of what is seen on marae. The pōwhiri is a formal Māori welcome.

The following 10 stages are typical of a pōwhiri but may vary from place to place, occasion to occasion.

  1. Ko Ngā Tāngata (the people)
    There are two groups required for a pōwhiri to commence. The tangata whenua (hosts) and manuhiri (visitors). At least four people are needed for a pōwhiri - two males and two females. One female does the karanga (call) and one male does the mihi (speech) on either side.
  2. Inoi (prayer)
    An Ῑnoi should be said by both manuhiri and tangata whenua to ensure safety of the people and proceedings.
  3. Wero (challenge)
    Traditionally a wero was carried out to ascertain the intentions of the visiting group. Wero was executed by the fastest and fittest male warriors of the tangata whenua. The way the taki (dart) was placed down or picked up would determine whether or not the manuhiri had come in peace. (This is not always done today.)
  4. Karanga (call)
    The karanga is the first voice to be heard in a pōwhiri. A female elder traditionally carries out the karanga. The caller for the tangata whenua holds the title of kaikaranga and is the first to call. The caller who replies for the manuhiri holds the title of kaiwhakautu. The purpose of the karanga is to weave a metaphorical spiritual rope around the guests (manuhiri) for safe passage to enter Te marae nui ā tea o Tūmatauenga ('the domain of Tūmatauenga' - the Māori god of war/ conflict) - the courtyard in front of the whare tupuna (ancestral house).
  5. Haka Pōwhiri (welcome dance)
    The haka pōwhiri is executed by the tangata whenua. The purpose of the haka pōwhiri is to use the rope woven during the karanga to pull the spiritual waka (canoe) of the manuhiri (guests) onto the marae and to uplift the mana (prestige) of the tangata whenua, their marae, iwi, hapū and their tūpuna (ancestors).
  6. Mihi (speeches)
    Traditionally only the experts in the art of whaikōrero (oratory) would stand to speak to the opposite group. The purpose of the mihi is to acknowledge and weave together the past, present and future, by acknowledging the creator, guardians, the hunga mate (the dead), the hunga ora (the living) and laying down the take or kaupapa (the reason) for the pōwhiri or event that will take place.
  7. Waiata (chant/song - sung after each speaker)
    The purpose of the waiata is to show that the people support the speaker and what has been said. Waiata often reflect on what has been said and the occasion surrounding the pōwhiri. It acknowledges the speaker’s whakapapa (genealogy) or the group itself.
  8. Koha (gift): Koha is given by the manuhiri to the tangata whenua. The koha is laid by the last speaker of the manuhiri to indicate their speakers are all finished. The koha is the first contact between the tangata whenua and the manuhiri. Traditionally koha were in the form of precious materials - pounamu, whale bone, korowai (cloaks) and other taonga. Today, money is the normal form of koha. The size of the koha (pride, prestige) shows the mana of the manuhiri and the significance of the occasion.
  9. Hongi (traditional form of greeting)
    The hongi is the first physical contact between the two groups. It is not the widely popularised ‘rubbing of noses’ but the gentle pressing of nose and forehead.
  10. Hakari / Kai (feast/eating)
    The final stage of the pōwhiri. It is the stage where the tapu (sacred nature) of the pōwhiri is removed by the sharing of kai (food). The tangata whenua and the manuhiri are now one.